an interview with the founder about her eponymous label
Fatim, what's the quick low-down on what your brand is about?
Fatim Bahh is a cause-driven apparel line that employs local (Los Angeles) seamstresses and women artisans in Kindia, Guinea. Each piece includes our signature handwoven / hand dyed African textile accents, which is a detail unique to our collection. We are a West African-inspired and Los Angeles-based quality clothing company for contemporary women.
You have a wonderful giving-back aspect that's integral to your brand... can you tell us some more about that?
Most importantly, we contribute 10% of every purchase to an education fund that assists with sending young girls in Kassa, Guinea, West Africa to primary school, in partnership with One Girl At A Time, a 501(c)(3) foundation.
Why West Africa? How did you get involved with One Girl At A Time?
I was born and raised in Guinea, West Africa. During a visit back to my hometown, I realized that the craftsmanship of textile weaving and dying was exceptional amongst many women, however, I also noticed that many of them were still having difficulties sustaining a stable income. With over 10 years of experience in the fashion industry, I felt the need to utilize my knowledge and skills to help keep the beautiful tradition of textile making -- but most importantly, to help create jobs for women in one of the most vulnerable communities so they could be financially independent.
And you recently traveled back there... what would you like to share about that trip?
My last trip was a humbling experience, I got the opportunity to travel to Kassa, the island where the primary school is located, and visited our young girls at the school and learned about their progress from the teachers. We walked 30 minutes in the forest to visit their homes and talk to their parents -- it was rewarding to know that One Girl At A Time foundation program is progressing and the excitement of the community we serve to help girls get educated. My team and I then went to Kindia and Labe, to see the women artisans we work with. Everyone was so welcoming, and we discussed progress and developed new ideas for the Summer '17 Collection.
Are there any more personal stories you can share about the beauty and success of these efforts? Tell us about some of the girls who have been given a boost because of your involvement and what they're doing now!
There are so many personal stories. I remember speaking with Zenab’s mother (one of the young girls in our program -- she is a widow with 4 kids). She did not want her daughter to get married at an early age and be a cook like her, but instead be a hairdresser, so she can help her with finances. She believes that with One Girl At A Time Foundation, her daughter can accomplish more in life. The fact that her daughter loves school (she does all her chores the night before so she can rush to school in the morning) has been her joy.
We now have 10 amazing young girls at school ages 9-13, who were carefully chosen from the community because either both parents no longer live or the mother is a widow. One Girl At A Time foundation gives the opportunity to these girls to see a brighter future. All of our girls have proven to love and adapt our program, which made us do something special this past summer: we managed to have an art program to keep them busy and help them learn to express themselves through art. We worked with a very dedicated teacher from the island who monitored the program.
How would you describe the experience of walking around Guinea -- the smells, the tastes, the texture, the overall mood?
The weather in Guinea is very humid, so it is challenging go through the days, as you need to drink a lot of water, eats lots of fruits, and wear comfortable clothe (I wear our Muna T-shirt my entire visit ). The experience was amazing, taking a ride from the city to the Island in small boats, talking to the community and laughing. The mood is happy, vibrant and alive, always something happening, noise of musics, people chatting or little monkey making noise in the forest, I love to travel there as it brings back childhood memories.
And how does that translate into your clothing line?
We use culture, which is pretty much alive in the community we serve, happiness of being who you are, to express individuality and empower the women who wear our clothes as well as the artisans who make them. These are all translate into our collection.
Now... tell us about your new collection! I had a peek and loved what I saw…
We feel so fortunate to continue working and making a difference in the community we serve in Africa. We now work with 10 young girls in the Island of Kassa, who are attending school through our program with One Girl At A Time foundation, a 501 (c)3 US organization, and 12 dedicated women artisans who dyed and weaved our apparels and accessories in Africa. All of this has been possible thanks to all of our amazing customers and women supporters.
Our new collection is all about expressing individuality and embracing life. We used textiles from Kindia and Labe to tell the story, and each piece is made here in Los Angeles.
What kind of impact do you hope to have had ten years from now? What do you want your lasting legacy to be?
I want to help young girls in underprivileged regions of Africa get an education so they can be financially independent. Build an educational system though One Girl At A time foundation that can be repeated in other part of Africa. I want my legacy to empower girls and women in Africa break out of the cycle of poverty.
Any encouraging words for our readers who are trying to adopt a more ethical lifestyle?
Choosing to live an ethically conscious lifestyle in today's era is empowering -- it truly helps community of children and women across the globe. I think we all can be amazing global citizens of the world, truly powerful.